Coyotes have made themselves at home in every part of state

GARDEN Q&A

January 10, 2009|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Is it possible I saw a coyote the other night? I would swear it was. Were they introduced here, or did they extend their range naturally?

Originating out West, coyotes have been migrating east since the early 20th century. Though shy, coyotes have been sighted in every Maryland county. Their main western predators, the gray wolf and cougar, have not followed them east.

Eastern coyotes have adapted well, sometimes growing larger and heavier than their western ancestors. Small pets make easy prey, along with our plentiful squirrels and other wildlife. Coyotes have proven to be a boost to the environment, and recently were instrumental in eliminating highly damaging invasive nutria from our state parks.

In winter, wind makes my house colder. I want to block it by planting a windbreak. Any tips I need to know? Would spruce be the best tree to use?

The coldest winter winds come from the northwest. Plant on the northwest side of your house. (Try not to block summer southwest winds.) The protected zone created by a windbreak extends downwind for a distance 30 times the height of the windbreak, however, maximum protection is within the area between 5 and 7 times the windbreak's height. Ironically, a slightly open windbreak stops wind better than a totally impenetrable one. Staggering a diverse selection of evergreens works well. Be sure foliage extends to the ground. Spruce, pines, arborvitae, Eastern red cedar and American holly are good possibilities.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at hgic.umd.edu.

checklist

* Branches broken by ice and snow can be pruned immediately.

* Place a cover over plastic or concrete lawn ornaments that retain standing water. When water freezes, it will crack them.

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